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Explorit Hits the Big 3-0

Hi.  I’m Walking Bob, and one of Davis’ unique treasures lies less than a mile from my home, so I walk by it several times a week.  However, as Spring Break approaches, it’s time to do more than walk by.  After all, this April will mark the 30th birthday of what was originally called the Davis Science Center, and it is also the time to sign up for summer programs.

The concept started out over coffee chats in 1978 with Anne Hance, Judy Moores, Maria Ogzydziak, Cay Pratt, and Sherry Venezia looking for ways to expand some of the programs that had been developed for gifted and talented students so they would reach all students.  By 1981, they had convinced the Davis Joint Unified School District to give them a classroom at the District Office and in April 1982, the Davis Science Center was born.

After a number of moves around the school district and community, what is now known as the Explorit® Science Center is alive and thriving at 3141 Fifth Street, where they have been for twenty years.  It’s an ideal time to stop by for two important reasons.  First of all, the center will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. everyday from Monday, April 2 through Friday, April 13 for students to visit the Forces of Nature Exhibit, the Challenger Center, and the interesting collection of live animals.  In addition to those exhibits, there will be special “Nano Days” added to the options during Spring Break from April 9 to April 13.

It is also time to register children for the 2012 Summer Camp Programs.  Registration opened on March 28 with morning or full day programs running from June 11 through August 17.  There are five themed programs for four-year-olds and Kindergarten, five different programs for 1st & 2nd grade and five more for 3rd to 5th grade students.  They have kid-friendly themes like “Slimy, Grimy Science,” “Be a Goo-ologist,” and “Zoom into Zoology.”  You can sign up online with the right credit card, but don’t put this off because the sessions fill up fast.

Explorit is more than just a place to drop in, as I discovered when I joined the program on an evening trip to a school in Sacramento.  They offer two options “Health in Your World” and “Science in Your World”, where Explorit staff members set up stations, train a few adults from the home school, and then open the doors so students, parents and teachers can enjoy several hours of science exploration.  At the school I visited, the parents were just as excited about running the stations as students were excited about the hands-on learning.

After all, who wouldn’t want to hold a huge Madagascan Hissing Cockroach or slice into a real lung or look at insects through a microscope?  As the staff tells people, “Please do touch it, and don’t just touch it, Explorit!”  These programs for families and other school assembly programs go out to eighteen counties around Davis and the Explorit vans are regularly on the road reaching over 50,000 people a year.

My tour of the facility was led by Lars Anderson, who wasn’t in on those first coffee chats, but has been involved since 1982.  Lars has served several terms as president of the Board that keeps Explorit coming up with new ideas for exhibits and projects year after year.  The Board, which is always seeking new members, is in the middle of developing another exciting program that could involve the whole county.  Lars wouldn’t let me put out all the details, but keep checking the Explorit Web Site, and I’ll give you one clue.  Not all webs are on the Internet.

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